DO NOT allow your dog to use his mouth in play or to move or control the child. Any dog over five months of age should not use his mouth to play, and is probably not playing. He may be trying to control humans with his teeth, no matter how gentle he appears to be. See Puppy Biting
Do NOT allow your dog to cut in between you and your child during hugging or any other affectionate interactions. This can indicate jealousy, rank aggression, or guarding of your, the owner.
“Let sleeping dogs lie” is a saying created by someone who really knew dogs. Teach this to your child and keep an eye on visiting children. NEVER allow them to startle, wake, or hug a sleeping dog. Also, dogs by nature are grouchier and testier in the evenings and at night. If your dog drops off into a heavy sleep in the evenings, put him in a private room or into a crate so that you can prevent the possibility of a child startling or waking the dog.
Watch for any growling. Dogs grown to warn us of biting. Owners have often commented that their dogs growled all the time, yet they were shocked when they finally bit. Owners believed that the growling meant the dogs would never bite. Growling is never a vocalization a dog makes just to “talk”. Dogs don’t “talk” by growling – they growl to let us know they need help; they are warning us that they are preparing to bite. Determine carefully if the growling is ONLY during play. Make sure it is mild, and make sure the games between the child and dog seem
“cooperative” rather than competitive and serious.
Watch for a combination of events like these: Your dog may be fine if approached by your child while he is chewing on a rawhide, and, separately, your dog may be fine when approached and hugged while resting on your couch, but your dog may growl or even bite when approached by your child AND hugged WHILE he lies on the couch chewing a bone. Your dog may be fine being hugged by your child in general, and your dog may be fine when held by the collar and restrained from chasing the cat or bolting out the front door, but your dog may growl, snap or bite when hugged WHILE restrained, keyed up or frustrated.
DO NOT ALLOW, at any time:
- Any sign of rough play from the dog towards the child
- Any sign or display of physical strength from the dog towards the child.
- Any growling (even during play)
- Any snapping or nipping
- Any humping or mounting of the child OR adults
- Any avoidance or resentment of physical contact (dog backs off or leaves room when child hugs or pets or get close to dog)
- Any sign the dog is afraid of the child (dog backs away or tries to escape when child appears or gets close)
- Any sign of jealousy from the dog by intimacy or physical affection between parents or especially between child and parent (dog barks or cuts in between people during intimacy)
- Any sign the dog is guarding his food bowl, his bones, his toys, or “stolen” items (dog may tense up, freeze, stiffen, growl, snap, show his teeth, snarl, or just glare at anyone approaching or coming near the dog’s item)
- Your dog to be tied, chained, cabled or penned in the yard where he can see running, playing, squealing children
- Your dog to get out of control, disobedient or “wild” with children who are playing or running around
It is important that your dog truly adores and almost PREFERS children to adults. No matter how well behaved and gentle your child is, there will come a time when a child will push the dog past his tolerance threshold. A dog that starts out with a huge buffer of love, affection, and adoration of children is apt to tolerate much more before reaching that threshold. Likewise, a well-behaved, well-supervised, gentle child is less apt to push a dog to its limits.